Oshawa’s bid to support Clarington in asking for EA for anaerobic digestor dies on committee floor

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Published February 8, 2022 at 11:25 am

Confusion over the wording of a motion to ask for an environmental assessment (EA) of the proposed anaerobic digester in nearby Courtice led to the motion’s resounding defeat at Oshawa’s Development Services committee meeting yesterday.

Councillor John Gray, who is not a member of the committee, had introduced the notice of motion at Oshawa Council in December to support the Municipality of Clarington’s demand that the Environment Ministry undertake an EA of the $230 million project, a request not supported by the Region of Durham.

The fight between Clarington and Durham quickly got ugly late last year, with Durham CAO Elaine Baxter-Trehair terminating the mediation process between the two sides, citing delays and “activity in the media,” and Gray subsequently calling the Region a “bully” for its actions.

Gray’s motion eventually made it to the Development Services Committee floor, and representatives from Durham Region (including Baxter-Trehair) were in attendance (electronically) to debate the project with committee members and several members of the community.

Karrie Lynn Dymond, an Oshawa resident and the founder of environmental group Clarington Clear, said the EA would give everyone the answers they need on the project and cited the Walkerton disaster of 20 years ago, when a tainted water supply led to nine deaths and hundreds of people getting sick, as reasons to take the slow route before approving the project.

“The answers we seek should not be hard to get,” she said, before urging Oshawa councillors to support their colleagues in Clarington and support the motion. “There is unity in numbers.”

Gioseph Anello, Durham’s Director of Waste Management Services, told committee members that the anaerobic digester will be a “positive climate change project” that will divert 30,000 tonnes of garbage from landfill annually, create a more efficient system and extend the lifespan of the nearby Durham-York Energy Centre (DYEC), a $300 million boondoggle which is nearing capacity just six years after opening.

Anello fielded questions from committee members about odors from the incinerator – “it wasn’t us” – and reminded councillors that an EA was performed for the DYEC when it required a temporary expansion recently but that one is not required for the mixed-waste pre-sort digester. In fact, the region asked the ministry two years ago if an EA was required for the new project and was told no, “because of the minimal environmental impacts.”

Gray, however, was not convinced. “I just want to make sure we are safe,” he said. “We just want another pair of eyes to ensure all the questions needed to be asked are asked. Do the double check and make sure.”

“Let’s get this right.”

In the end, it was the wording of the motion, calling for an EA of the Durham-York Energy Centre and not the proposed anaerobic digester, which doomed it.

With Gray not a voting member of the committee, the vote lost 5-0.

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